Black Baptist Group Boycotts S. Carolina: Flying of Confederate Flag Irks Members
Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The nation's "progressive" black Baptists voted yesterday to boycott South Carolina until it furls the Confederate flag on its capitol, and the denomination's president endorsed Vice President Al Gore for the White House in 2000.
"We shall not do business in South Carolina," said the Rev. C. Mackey Daniels after a voice vote of the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc., which expects to draw 7,000 delegates and visitors here this week.
Later in the morning, Mr. Mackey introduced Mr. Gore as "soon to be the president of the United States of America."
Mr. Gore - who gave the day's longest speech at the church meeting - portrayed himself as "a person of strong faith" and laid out a policy agenda that put education and racial justice as top priorities.
The Rev. Nura Matthews of Sims Chapel Baptist Church in Whitmire, S.C., agreed that Mr. Daniels had endorsed Mr. Gore for president. "If he becomes president, he'll probably follow through" with the promises made in his speech, Mr. Matthews said.
Gore campaign spokesman Roger Salazar said the church leader's comment was "more a prediction" than endorsement. "We're not asking them to do anything that will get them in trouble," Mr. Salazar said.
The IRS gives churches tax exemption on the condition that they do not endorse candidates.
The progressive black Baptists, who broke from the National Baptists in 1961 to follow the social activism of Martin Luther King last held their annual convention in the District 16 years ago.
They meet at the Washington Convention Center through Saturday and will give awards to and hear speeches from an array of black leaders in Congress and the Clinton administration.
Mr. Daniels, elected to his four-year term in 1998, has said that with yesterday's boycott vote the 2.5 million-member denomination will cancel its executive board meeting in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in January. It also will pull out a youth evangelism event, New Life Crusade 2000, from Columbia, S.C.
"It's only a matter of time before the merchants will say to the legislature, `This flag must come down,'" Mr. Daniels said Sunday in anticipation of yesterday's vote.
Two weeks ago, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference canceled its national convention in Charleston, S.C., to protest the flag, a boycott led by the NAACP. …